For a lot of people when they’re stressed, they start craving chocolate. Interestingly, there is scientific evidence that craving might be justified after all. According to a new study, chocolate, especially dark chocolate lowers the levels of stress hormone when you are feeling stressed. Researchers have found that eating 1.4 ounces of chocolate every day for two weeks significantly reduces the level of the stress hormone cortisol.
What’s more, an average-sized candy bar also reduces the levels of catecholamines or the “fight-or-flight” hormone in very stressed people. The findings also found numerous other health benefits of having dark chocolate such as improved mood and reduced blood pressure.
Dark chocolate has been found to help relieve stress
Among many other functions, cortisol, the body’s stress hormone prepares you to respond to stress. However, if the cortisol levels are too high, it can cause chronic stress. This can harm your health. Dark chocolate can help reduce these effects. Dark chocolate is also rich in the compound flavonoid which reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, neurodegenerative disease, and cancer.
A study observed how men’s bodies react to stress during a mock interview and solving a math problem in front of an audience. The stress hormones were measured before and after they were put in the situations. And it was found that men who had dark chocolate reacted less severely to stress and released less cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline) which is another stress hormone. Whereas those who had the “fake” dark chocolate showed higher levels of stress.
The good news is that dark chocolate has been linked with relieving stress. But how does chocolate reduce stress? One of the ways dark chocolate reduces stress is by reducing the levels of cortisol in our bodies.
In a study, researchers studied the effect of having 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate on 30 healthy adults. The adults were given half the chocolate in during midmorning hours and the other half was eaten during midafternoon. This was done at a stretch for two weeks. The adults’ anxiety levels were measured before and after the end of the two-week study. The results of the study showed that dark chocolate reduced the level of stress hormones in adults with high anxiety.
The dark chocolate also showed to have beneficial effects on the metabolism and microbial activity in the gut. The study was conducted at the Nestle Research Center in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Cacao vs cocoa
How does chocolate reduce stress? This can be better understood with a brief lesson on cacao and cocoa. Cacao seeds which are also known as cacao beans are a football shaped fruit found in Africa, Central and South America. Chocolate comes from this fruit that is rich in antioxidants.
The cacao beans are harvested inside the fruit, dried, and fermented which is then turned into either cocoa liquor or cocoa butter. This raw cacao can either be eaten on its own or used in baking. The cacao is turned into cocoa, the kind you use for hot chocolate by roasting it. Dark chocolate or milk chocolate tasted different depending on the amount of liquor, milk, and butter. Anything that is 70% cacao is labelled as dark chocolate. Flavors such as citrus or mint can be added to it too.